An Act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act


Bardish Chagger  Liberal


Second reading (Senate), as of March 1, 2018

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This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Salaries Act to authorize payment, out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, of the salaries for eight new ministerial positions. It authorizes the Governor in Council to designate departments to support the ministers who occupy those positions and authorizes those ministers to delegate their powers, duties or functions to officers or employees of the designated departments. It also makes a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


Dec. 13, 2017 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act
Dec. 11, 2017 Passed Concurrence at report stage of Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act
Dec. 11, 2017 Failed Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act (report stage amendment)
June 12, 2017 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act
June 12, 2017 Failed 2nd reading of Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act (reasoned amendment)
June 7, 2017 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 10:15 a.m.
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Waterloo Ontario


Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism

moved that Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to how Bill C-24 will formalize in legislation the one-tier ministry of this government and ensure that the government and future governments have the flexibility to deliver on their commitments to Canadians.

As you know, the government introduced this bill to amend the Salaries Act on September 27, 2016.

Bill C-24 would amend the Salaries Act by adding eight new ministerial positions to the act, five of which are currently minister of state appointments, and three of which are untitled; removing the six regional development positions from the Salaries Act, for a total increase of two positions that may be paid a ministerial salary out of the consolidated revenue fund; creating a framework within which any of the eight new ministerial positions, if occupied, could be supported by existing departments; and changing the Salaries Act title of Minister of Infrastructure and Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs to Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, including in the Financial Administration Act to better reflect the responsibilities of the position and to reflect the fact that the Prime Minister has taken on the role of minister responsible for intergovernmental affairs.

A historical look at the cabinets of the past confirms what we already know: priorities change. In 1867, there were 14 men around the country's first cabinet table. Among them, a minister of militia and defence, a postmaster general, and a secretary of state for the provinces.

The position of Secretary of State for the Provinces disappeared in the second ministry, and the third ministry saw the introduction of a Minister of Railways and Canals. Trade and Commerce was a new ministerial position in the fifth ministry, Immigration and Labour appeared in the eighth, and Soldiers Civil Re-establishment in the tenth.

Health came later and so did environment, natural resources, and infrastructure.

The first female cabinet minister, the hon. Ellen Fairclough, took her seat at the cabinet table in 1957 and the changes go on.

When the Ministries and Ministers of State Act was introduced in Parliament in 1971, the sponsoring minister remarked that the pace of change imposes a constant challenge on Parliament and the government to be as efficient as possible in doing those things that are vital to the welfare of Canadians. He said that both institutions must be flexible. Both must adapt their procedures and structures to respond effectively to the changing needs of society in a changing world. Those observations are as apt today as they were in 1971.

Modernizing the legislative framework related to creating the ministry is part of the government's determination to enhance its capacity to deal effectively with the changing priorities of Canadians.

Yes, Bill C-24 is an administrative and technical bill, but it will enable an adaptable flexible ministry, now and into the future. It deserves Parliament’s support.

For the benefit of members, I would like to provide a bit of background. The appointment of ministers is a crown prerogative. The Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister may appoint any number of ministers to any office including officers that are not referred to in legislation. This is a common feature of Westminster democracies.

The Prime Minister decides on the composition, organization, and procedures of the cabinet, shaping it to reflect the priorities of the government and to respond to the particular needs of the citizenry.

However, there are two key considerations related to each ministerial appointment. First, under what authority can a minister be paid, and second, how can the minister be supported by the public service in carrying out his or her responsibilities?

Here Parliament has a supervisory role. Even if the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister appointed a whole host of ministers under the crown prerogative, they could not be paid except under the authority of the law. That too is a common feature in Westminster countries. The salaries of ministers must be authorized by law.

These laws may set out the maximum number of ministers that can be provided a salary. In Australia, for example, there can be up to 30 salaried ministers. In the U.K., there are several tiers of ministers. There can be as many as 109 positions that can be paid a salary, including the senior tier ministers of up to 22 and junior members in minister of state and parliamentary undersecretary positions.

In Canada, Parliament has authorized two ways to pay ministerial salaries, specifically via the Salaries Act or through Appropriation Acts. The Salaries Act authorizes payment of a ministerial salary from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to individuals who have been appointed to ministerial positions listed in that act.

The Salaries Act currently lists the Prime minister, 34 specific ministerial positions, and ministers of state who preside over a ministry of state.

When it comes to carrying out the responsibilities, the Ministries and Ministers of State Act provides authority for ministers of state to use their resources, facilities, and services in existing departments.

Therefore, we come to November, 2015. Five positions that the Prime Minister wanted in his ministry and cabinet were not positions listed in the Salaries Act. Other prime ministers have faced this challenge as well. Sometimes they have managed by appointing individuals to Salaries Act positions whose legal titles did not match their responsibilities, sometimes they have been satisfied to appoint a minister of state, and other times they have successfully brought forward amendments to the Salaries Act, including most recently in 2013. There are other instances where they have taken all three of these steps.

Accordingly, in November 2015, the Salaries Act could not accommodate ministerial positions for important priorities of this government, namely promoting science, supporting small business, promoting health through sport and creating opportunities for persons with disabilities, advancing gender equality, and preserving the vitality of the francophone world.

Therefore, five ministers were appointed pursuant to the Ministries and Ministers of State Act. These ministers are paid under appropriation acts.

This was to be the arrangement until legislation could be updated. This was always the plan. There was no plot to deny full status to five ministers. They were provided with what was possible within the legal framework that existed on November 4, 2015, and the Prime Minister made a commitment to bring forward legislation to formalize his one-tier cabinet.

Bill C-24 fulfills that commitment. It would revise the list of ministerial positions in the Salaries Act to afford certain priority areas the status they deserve. The five new title positions that Bill C-24 would add to the Salaries Act carry significant and important responsibilities. Those positions are Minister of La Francophonie, Minister of Small Business and Tourism, Minister of Science, Minister of Status of Women, and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities.

This government has said from the beginning of its mandate that there are no junior ministers and senior ministers. In practice, that is the way the cabinet has operated since day one of this government.

The Prime Minister created a ministry in which all members are full members of cabinet, have an equal capacity to exercise the powers and perform the functions assigned to them, and have leading roles to deliver on the important priorities of this government.

These ministers are appropriately supported by existing departments. This reflects the government's commitment to a different style of leadership, including close collaboration among cabinet colleagues. The ministry works in that spirit, with strong portfolio teams that share departmental resources and facilities to pursue its goals.

This arrangement would continue under the amended Salaries Act. Bill C-24 would give the Governor in Council the flexibility to ask any department to support the new Salaries Act ministers in carrying out some or all of their responsibilities. This flexibility means that a minister could have access to the expertise and experience of the department or departments best placed to provide them with full and appropriate support.

The amendments proposed by Bill C-24 would modernize the legislation to reflect the current one-tier cabinet. No new departments would need to be created as a consequence of this bill. This bill is designed to help the legislative framework catch up to the reality.

The proposed amendments will also include three new untitled positions. This will provide a measure of flexibility to this Prime Minister and to future prime ministers to appoint ministers to portfolios that reflect changing priorities of the day.

Some members have questioned our government's intentions here, suggesting something nefarious and non-transparent. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Salaries Act has been amended several times in the past. It simply makes sense to build in a degree of flexibility for the future. I encourage the members of this House to support Bill C-24. It represents an attempt to improve the way our system functions by enabling greater flexibility in cabinet design.

I will end where I began. Priorities change. A prime minister must have the flexibility to adjust his or her ministry to respond to those changing needs. The new titles that Bill C-24 would add to the Salaries Act speak to the priorities of our times, just as ministerial titles of the past spoke to theirs.

As society changes, Canada's needs will continue to evolve. It is important that we provide prime ministers with the flexibility to respond to these changes. This bill represents another important step in that process, and I urge members to support it.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 10:30 a.m.
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Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

Madam Speaker, in regards to an earlier question on the importance of debating this legislation, Bill C-24 is important legislation to debate. I continually ask the opposition how much time is needed to debate legislation, and if we can all figure out how much time is needed for all members to be able to speak, I will allot time accordingly. I know that all members want to raise points.

In regards to the member's question, Bill C-24 proposes a one-tier ministry, in which a minister is a minister is a minister. Minister of state positions can always be filled by future governments if they so wish. Our Prime Minister and this government recognize the importance of these positions and of their having equal voices at the cabinet table. Each of these ministers has been provided with a mandate letter, just like every other minister. For the first time, these mandate letters were made public so that Canadians will know what a minister's mandate is.

It is true that today at committee the conflict of interest and ethics commissioner nominee will be able to answer questions. I am sure that will be a fruitful conversation.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 10:35 a.m.
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Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Madam Speaker, the Liberals cut short the debate on Bill C-24 because it is a purely cosmetic bill.

We are not talking about equality for all women here. We are talking about raising the salaries of the ministers of state on the pretext that the Prime Minister made a mistake when he appointed the members of his cabinet. He said that the appointments were fair and that they represented all women, but he forgot that many of the women he appointed were in minister of state positions, and they do not have the same responsibilities. Now, he wants to make the salaries equal but not the responsibilities. Equal pay for equal work. We do not understand what principle the Liberals are following because that is not what is happening here at all.

Pay equity does not just affect the ministers, who are just a handful of people in Canada. Pay equity should apply to all Canadians.

Why have the Liberals still not introduced a bill on pay equity when they were supposed to do so in 2016? The report and recommendations were tabled in 2004.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 10:35 a.m.
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Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Madam Speaker, as usual, I would like to say hello to the people of Beauport—Limoilou who are tuning in today. Unfortunately, I have to tell them that we are debating Bill C-24 at third reading this morning. This is one of those typically Liberal bills designed to satisfy special interest groups that support Liberals and lend credence to their ideological views.

I found it particularly interesting to see the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons champion the bill so passionately, but I do have questions about some of her arguments.

First of all, I wonder if, in defending the bill, the minister is putting on an act or if she truly does not understand the difference between ministers, who are responsible for portfolios crucial to the nation, and ministers of state, who are there to lend a hand and support other departments of national importance.

Five major federal ministers have always had a seat at the cabinet table, namely the Minister of Finance, the Treasury Board minister, the Minister of National Defence, the Minister of Veterans Affairs, and the Minister of National Revenue. Those five cabinet positions have always existed, and they have always been important to the government's ability to govern well.

The minister also said repeatedly in her speech how important Bill C-24 is for gender equality among cabinet ministers. That is not exactly how many of her colleagues seem to understand it. At the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, which I was honoured to serve on for over a year in 2016 and 2017, many Liberal members thought that, on the contrary, Bill C-24 was not about achieving gender equality.

When the committee was hearing from witnesses for the bill's study, the member for Newmarket—Aurora said:

I'm not sure the purpose of this bill was at all to express gender equality....I don't think it's meant to be a tool that's going to address gender inequality, pay equity, or any of the other issues you raised...

The member for Châteauguay—Lacolle, who also serves on the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, thinks that ministries of state should be called emerging ministries. This is another example that illustrates that the Liberals do not seem to understand the difference between ministries of state and departments critical to good governance, such as the Department of Finance.

The hon. Liberal member from Don Valley East told the witnesses:

I was as confused as you were about why we are even talking about gender equity....I thank you for being here, but I don't think we have the relevance to our study for Bill C-24...Let's not be disingenuous and try to say that [Bill C-24] has anything to do with gender equality...

I simply wanted to mention these small details to show that despite the speech by the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons today at third reading stage of Bill C-24, a number of her colleagues expressed an opposite view in committee, that the bill had nothing to do with gender equity. It is just a tool to take up the House's time and distract from other awful realities that this government would rather not talk about, namely its capacity to break promise after promise since it was elected in 2015.

For example, the Liberals broke their promise to run a deficit of $10 billion a year. That is well known in Canada. Now they are running deficits of more than $20 billion. They also broke their promise to balance the budget by 2019. That has been put off indefinitely. They do not even have the honour or decency to announce a target date for balancing the budget. Then they broke their promise to move forward with electoral reform and to change the Canadian electoral system, which was a key election promise. They also broke their promise to restore home mail delivery for all Canadians by making Canada Post review its policy to stop home mail delivery. They also broke their promise not to introduce omnibus bills, which have been piling up over the past two years. As a matter of fact, we debated an omnibus bill in the House just yesterday. They also broke their promise to give veterans the option of choosing a lifetime pension by restoring the system that was in effect before 2005, or before the new veterans charter was introduced.

Those are just a few examples of the Liberals' broken promises. That is this government's track record. I am pointing that out because Bill C-24 is yet another attempt to hide another broken promise, the promise to have true gender parity in cabinet. When the Prime Minister formed his cabinet two weeks after winning the election in 2015, he was very proud to announce to the media at a press conference that he had a gender-balanced cabinet. When he was asked why, he responded “Because it's 2015”. It is already mind-boggling enough that a prime minister would not have a better explanation than that, but in the months that followed, journalists, Canadians, interest groups, and women's rights groups slowly became aware of something that the Prime Minister was trying to slip past them. His cabinet was gender balanced with regard to the number of men and women at the cabinet table, but not with regard to the importance of the positions they held.

At the beginning of my speech, I named Canada's most important government departments. For example, the head of the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness is a man. The same is true of the Treasury Board, the Department of Finance, and the Department of National Defence. The only other department that is undeniably important to the government is the Department of Foreign Affairs. Of the five major departments, only one is led by a woman.

Women were chosen to head a few other departments, such as the Department of Indigenous Services and the Department of Health. However, all of the other women in cabinet are ministers of state. It is not that they are less important, but they do not lead real departments with an office building, thousands of employees, a minister's office, and the tools needed to properly manage a major department.

In practical terms, Bill C-24 would do two things. First, it would eliminate the positions of the ministers responsible for Canada's economic development agencies. Second, it would create eight new federal minister positions. Five of them would be ministers of state who would receive the same salary as full ministers, thanks to an amendment to the Salaries Act that is supposedly intended to ensure parity within cabinet.

We Conservatives have no choice but to oppose Bill C-24, if only because abolishing the positions of the ministers responsible for economic development agencies would have such a detrimental effect on the well-being of Canada and all of its regions.

Regional economic development agencies play a pivotal role in Canada. They help thousands of projects get off the ground in every province and major region. Canada is divided into five regions: the Atlantic region, Quebec, Ontario, the western region, and the Pacific region. Each of these regions has its own economic development agency, whose job is to determine the basic needs of its small and medium-sized municipalities and large urban centres.

The Liberal government's decision to eliminate the positions of the ministers responsible for these six economic development agencies is a clear attempt to centralize power in Canada. Every time the Liberal Party comes into power, its goal is to centralize power in Ottawa, within the federal administration. That is what it tried to do with the health agreements it recently negotiated with the provinces, when it made their funding subject to conditions. Now it is doing the same thing on a bigger scale by abolishing the positions of the ministers responsible for regional agencies.

For example, Mr. Denis Lebel, who was our political lieutenant for Quebec, was responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec. Every year, the agency distributes roughly $200 million only in Quebec, specifically to revitalize municipal neighbourhoods, provide small and medium-sized businesses with new tools, and finance concrete projects in small airports to help local businesses get much faster access to major centres and even to other countries.

A minister in charge of a regional economic development agency is a bit like an MP. As members, we visit our ridings to understand the daily needs of our constituents. We participate in events and we do canvassing, not to mention the work we do in our offices, where we welcome constituents. This enables us to hear what they have to say about bills and government politics, and especially about pressing, local needs. A minister who represents a regional economic development agency has a similar job, but they do it for the designated region as a whole. In this case, I am speaking of Quebec.

Denis Lebel was the minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec. His duties as a minister and political lieutenant included visiting companies and making ministerial announcements. He travelled all over the province, meeting citizens and entrepreneurs and visiting small and medium municipalities, entrepreneurial communities, or even community development organizations, in order to determine what they needed.

Like an MP, a minister responsible for an economic development agency must come back here to Ottawa and report to cabinet about the region he or she represents.

When Parliament is sitting, we are all expected to come to the House every week, whether it is fall or spring. We are expected to come here and report to the House or to our national caucuses on what our constituents, the various orders of government in our regions, our municipalities, and our ridings need. Collaboration and synergy between the different orders of government is always a good thing.

The work we do in the House is exactly what the ministers responsible for regional economic development agencies do in reporting to cabinet and ultimately to public servants and the Prime Minister. These people provide an essential link between the needs on the ground and the whole governmental and bureaucratic apparatus in Ottawa.

Every department that is responsible for allocating funds for projects across Canada is part of an extremely complex state system that is like an endless bureaucratic web. It involves 300,000 public servants in Canada, and the decisions they make often take a very long time.

The work of the ministers responsible for economic development agencies was therefore central to the actual funding allocated for projects, because they were there in Ottawa to establish a connection between the needs on the ground and government priorities and to navigate administrative and bureaucratic processes.

For example, the minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the regions of Quebec at the time, Denis Lebel, was handed a list of projects several times a month, and he had to approve the really big ones. His role and responsibility was to ensure that what he was hearing on the ground informed the public service's administrative priorities so that the most important projects got done as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, the Liberal government cut cabinet positions associated with various economic development regions in Canada and put one person in charge of all the economic development agencies in the country. That person is the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, an MP from Toronto who already heads up a major department. He is now responsible for being up on what is going on with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, for example. He also has to be aware of what is going on with economic development agencies for western Canada, Quebec, and Ontario. He is the person who is supposedly going to be familiar with the issues affecting every little community and every region across Canada and who is going to make sure they get money for the projects that matter most to them.

It is hard to understand how the Liberal government was unable to find one person among the 30 members from Atlantic Canada with the right skills and who would have been honoured to head the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

We can already predict what will happen. Projects submitted to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency were generally authorized or would move forward after about 30 days or so; we now see delays of more than 90 days. This centralization will have a major impact on how money is allocated to the communities and regions of Canada. It is impossible to believe that a minister from Toronto will be able to single-handedly grasp all of Canada's regional concerns.

As far as the gender-balanced cabinet is concerned, the Liberals are once again getting taxpayers to foot the bill for one of their political mistakes. The Liberals led Canadians to believe that theirs was a gender-balanced cabinet, but it is balanced only in terms of numbers. It is not balanced in terms of ministerial importance. To fix their mistake, the Liberals are telling Canadians that they will give every minister of state the same salary as “real” ministers.

Again, taxpayers are paying for a Liberal mistake.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 11:10 a.m.
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Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madame Speaker, here we are again debating a bill that has the dubious distinction of leaving things as they are, with one notable exception, which is to tie the hands of future governments with respect to being able to have independent, separate ministers for each of the economic regional development agencies. In our view, this is not a good idea.

The only thing the bill would really accomplish is something the government ought not to be doing. The Liberals have selected one model, which is to have one minister oversee all the regional economic development ministries. That is their option under the current legislation. We do not think it is a good one, but it is what they have chosen to do. Canadians can judge them accordingly. What does not make sense is for them to tie the hands of future governments by requiring future governments to adopt that same approach, rather than leaving it open to future governments to make other decisions. That is the one thing the legislation would actually accomplish. It is not a very good thing, so there is very little to support such legislation.

Certainly, if not in the flagship speeches then in the questions and comments, Liberals have been making the argument from time to time that this is somehow about gender equality. I even heard some members come at the NDP asking how we could possibly disagree with Bill C-24, or not support Bill C-24, when it is about a better place at the cabinet table for women and pay equity for women. The odd thing about that argument is that it has been contradicted a number of times by Liberals themselves on the record at committee and just earlier, in the House today, in a question in response to a Conservative colleague who had just made a speech.

I wish the Liberals could get it straight in their own minds what the bill is about. Is it about gender equality, or is it not? If it is, it is too bad that the bill would fail to do anything real in that respect. In fact, all the expert testimony we heard at committee made that case.

Margot Young, from the Peter A. Allard School of Law at UBC, was very clear. She said:

The...point I want to make is that to claim that it is about gender equality is dangerous. I think it's dangerous because too often we cut off the really important, substantial, and tough conversations about gender equality by claiming that we've already dealt with it and we've dealt with it in some more formalistic way.

In response to that testimony, the member for Newmarket—Aurora said, “I don't think it's meant to be a tool that's going to address gender inequality, pay equity, or any of the other issues you raised in your opening.”

The member for Don Valley East said, “I thank you for being here, but I don't think we have the relevance to our study for Bill C-24”. She also said, “I was as confused as you were about why we are even talking about gender equity.”

We heard the same comments echoed by a Liberal in the House just this morning.

As far as I am concerned, the arguments against the bill doing anything for gender equality are decisive. They are backed up by expert testimony at committee, they are backed up by Liberals at committee, and they are backed up by Liberals in this very House on this very day. Therefore, let us move on from Liberals trying to pretend that not supporting this bill is somehow not supporting women or not supporting gender equality at the cabinet table.

If they want to do something for women at the cabinet table, we are happy to sit down and discuss ideas about how they could have a real, meaningful, and fair sharing of power and responsibility and authority at the cabinet table, instead of just calling women ministers, when they have the duties of a minister of state, and paying them the same. That is not real gender equality.

Of course, the question then becomes, and we have visited it before, if the bill is not about gender equality, what is it about? We have heard from the government that the bill is about updating the law to reflect the current practices of government. In one sense, that is true. As I remarked at the beginning of my speech, the Liberals are updating the legislation to reflect what we think is the bad practice of not having separate ministers for the various regional economic development agencies. In that sense, it reflects a practice of the government, albeit not a very good one. However, in other ways, it does not. For instance, the current government apparently thinks there is an issue of principle at stake when there are ministers of state. The Liberals think that when they have ministers of state, they create a two-tier cabinet. That is their language, not mine. That is what they say, that it creates a two-tier cabinet. Therefore, they are not doing it, because they think it is wrong, because they think it does not give due importance to various issues and various people around the cabinet table.

One would think, then, that if the Liberals wanted to update the legislation to reflect current practice, in particular practice that is informed by principle—not just a haphazard practice but a principled practice of having a one-tier ministry, whatever that means, and I will come to that—then they would take this opportunity to update the legislation. However, they are not, because they leave ministers of state in there.

We heard the government House leader say earlier that they think it should be up to future governments whether they use ministers of state. Why they would leave that up to future governments and not leave future governments the option to have separate ministers for the various regional economic development agencies is a mystery, so far unanswered. Unfortunately, I do not believe it will be answered by the time the bill passes third reading in the House. Hopefully, members in the other place will be able to compel an answer to that question, which the Liberals have not been willing to volunteer in this place.

If the bill is about modernizing legislation to reflect the current practices of the government, it fails. If it is about gender equality, it fails, by the government's own admission. What else could it be about? It could be about an ephemeral sense of equality of ministers around the cabinet table. It is not really clear exactly what that means. However, we get a sense of it in the comments of Liberal members during debate about whether or not the NDP and other opposition parties take the issues that have been assigned to ministers of state seriously. They suggest that somehow we do not take seriously the status women, small business, or all these other issues. I do not want to call it an argument, but it is just a weird comment, a weird thing to say.

By the logic of this argument, if the only way we could be deemed to take an issue seriously is to have a full minister responsible for the issues, then why does the government not have a minister of housing? Clearly, by its own logic, the government does not take housing seriously. I note it also does not have a minister for seniors, because apparently the government does not care about seniors. If it cared, it would have a full minister dedicated to seniors, and if it cared about housing, it would have a full minister dedicated to housing, but it does not, so obviously it does not care about those issues. If that sounds stupid, that is because it is, but that is not my line of argument. That is the line of argument put forward by the Liberals themselves in this place. It is a strange situation for them to put themselves in, to say that somehow we must have dedicated, explicit ministers, and call them a minister—not a minister of state or anything else—in order to show we take the issue seriously.

We take housing seriously. In fact, we have a housing critic. We take seniors seriously. We have a seniors critic. However, we do not think that, just because it does not have an explicitly named critic or minister, somehow the party automatically does not take these issues seriously. Likewise, if there is a minister of state for a certain subset of issues, that is not to say that the government does not think it is important. What it really means is that the government does not have a full department with all of the assets and staff that implies. That is okay, because there is a difference between the capability required for defence and the capability required to promote small business in Canada. That is okay. I would be distressed if the government invested as much in the promotion of small business and tourism in Canada as it did in the Department of National Defence. I would think that something had gone wrong in government if those two budgets were the same, in either direction. If it cut DND funding to be the same as the budget for small business and tourism, I would be concerned. If it raised the budget of small business and tourism to equal the budget of the minister of national defence, I would also be concerned.

This idea that somehow we need to call everyone the same thing, and they all have to be ministers in order to take the issues seriously to the appropriate degree, is obviously false. These ministries will not be resourced to the same degree, nor should they be, and that is okay. By extension, if we have different titles to recognize that very real administrative distinction, that would continue under this legislation. Notice it says it will make all ministers equal by making them the same, except it is actually creating two kinds of ministers, which did not exist before.

Up to now, there has only really been one kind of minister, but now there are going to be ministers, full stop, and ministers for whom a department is designated. In the legislation, interestingly, for all of the sub-components for a minister for whom a department is designated, the language reflects largely the language that already exists for ministers of state. They are going to be resourced in the same way.

They are creating a two-tier ministry by actually creating two types of ministers. It is just not going to be obvious on the letterhead because they are going to have the same short name, as they have had for the last two years. They have been paid the same for the last two years which, I think, again speaks to the fact that this legislation is not necessary.

If it is not administrative equality, it is not gender equality, and it is not updating the law to reflect the current practices of the government, what is it? We have heard to some extent that they want all ministers in the Liberal government to be equal around the cabinet table. We need to call them all “minister” because somehow, if some are called “ministers of state” and others are called “ministers”, the Liberals have implied very clearly that they would not be taken seriously to the same extent around the cabinet table as the Prime Minister. Incidentally, I do not think that is something that can be cured legislatively. It has more to do with the dispositions of the Prime Minister than it does anything in legislation. I find it passing strange that the Prime Minister would name people to his cabinet whom he would not take seriously except if the law were changed to call them ministers. Why are they at the table, in the first place, if the Prime Minister needs legislative help to take them seriously?

It also makes me wonder, if it is the case that the Prime Minister will not take them seriously unless they are designated ministers in law, how it is that the Prime Minister could possibly be thought to be taking any of the other members of the Liberal caucus seriously. They certainly are not ministers, and unless we are going to have legislation calling parliamentary secretaries “ministers”, and committee chairs “ministers”, and backbench Liberals “ministers”, then I think what we are to infer from that is that the Prime Minister will not be taking them seriously.

There are certain members in this House on the Liberal benches who I think are not always taken very seriously. There are various reasons for that.

A great defender of this bill has been the member for Winnipeg North. One wonders how he could defend such legislation when an important component of this legislation is to say, if a member is not called a “minister”, then that member is not taken seriously by the government. He has been up on his feet defending that principle. Well, news flash, he is not a minister. He is a parliamentary secretary. I find it odd to hear the member for Winnipeg North on his feet so often defending the idea that, unless a member is called a minister by law, then that member should not, and will not, be taken seriously by the Prime Minister. That seems to be a pretty direct implication of his argument.

Some people in the House do not often take the member for Winnipeg North seriously because there is a bit of a white noise effect. We learn to tune certain things out, as we did in the spring with the construction. Every once in a while there is a particularly loud boom or shake and we look up from what we are doing, but soon return to what it was they were doing. I think others have spent some time listening and ultimately concluded it is not worth the investment. For others, I think they would like to see a better quality of argument.

I have tried to show the extent to which the arguments that the member for Winnipeg North, and other members of the Liberal caucus, have been making about Bill C-24 are really not worth our time, just as the bill is not worth our time. What I understand from this debate is that, all of those other good reasons notwithstanding, the Prime Minister's reason for not taking the member for Winnipeg North seriously is that he is not called a minister. Until such time that he is called a minister, I suppose, he will not be taken seriously, just as the other Liberals will not.

I think we should have a government where the prime minister does take his backbench seriously. We should have a government where the prime minister can use what is a perfectly fine, acceptable tool in cabinet composition, which is ministers of state. I hear some Liberals arguing for self-promotion among the Liberal ranks now that they realize that they have not been taken seriously all along—the sounds of distress from the other side. However, I will not let that distract me from making the important point, which is that we should have a prime minister who is able, willing, and understands the tools of cabinet composition already available, particularly with respect to ministers of state.

Part of the idea of ministers of state is to have some flexibility with respect to naming new kinds of ministries that may not be around forever. It may be that a particular focus is required because certain issues of the day come up. Some of them have been lasting without being made full departments, but that is a choice of the government of the day. We would welcome, for instance, the Liberals actually wanting to do something meaningful in terms of concretizing the status of women and looking at creating an actual department. That would be something interesting that has merit and is worth looking at. That is not what they are doing. They are just coming up with another way of naming ministers of state; namely, ministers for whom a department is designated.

I have tried to address some of what I think are really bad arguments by the government for what the point and purpose of this bill is. As we watch the members chase their tails on this bill, what becomes evident is that this bill is not going anywhere. We just keep running around in the same kind of argumentative circles. They bring up gender equality, and frankly, those arguments get demolished, whether it is by people in this House or all the expert witnesses who came to testify on this particular bill.

The Liberals then change tack and say that it is about modernizing. Then we show that the bill does not actually modernize the legislation to reflect even their current practices, and so then they say that it is about a one-tier ministry. Then we ask if it is a one-tier ministry in terms of administrative responsibility and department size, and they say no. Then we ask if it is a one-tier ministry in the sense of equal voices at the cabinet table, they say that is not it and that it is really about gender equality. Now we have completed the circle. We see how this debate has been going from second reading to report stage. Now we are back at third reading and we still do not really know what the point and purpose of this bill is, not by virtue of the comments made by members of the Liberal Party. That is for sure.

Anyone who wants to take a step back, as many have in the course of this debate, realizes that a commitment of the Prime Minister during the election was to have gender parity in cabinet, and that when he named his cabinet, all the junior posts at that time were filled by women and none of them by men. He was called out in the media for that. It was embarrassing, and he ought to have felt embarrassed about it. He should have done the right thing, said it was a new government and did not totally appreciate what all the options were. Then he could have said that he was really committed to gender parity in the cabinet, that they would make some changes, shuffle those positions around, and/or add some positions in order to address other important issues like housing and seniors, which do not have a ministry. He could have said that, if it created those as junior roles, the government would put men in them, and if they created them as senior roles, it would put women in them because it wants to try to get to a point where the power, authority, and responsibilities of cabinet are equally shared between men and women. That would have been a way to handle it.

Instead, the government invented this dog and pony show that we have been at for the better part of two years now, wasting time in this place. As it goes over to the other place to waste more time, one wonders why, when we have suffered time allocation on other bills that actually did something. I mean, that is what is unique about this bill. With the exception of the question of tying the hands of future governments with respect to separate ministers for regional and economic development agencies, whether one opposes or supports the bill, the fact is that the bill actually does not really do anything.

As a colleague of mine pointed out earlier, we have spent more time debating that in this House than some of the budget implementation bills, and certainly more than the Canada infrastructure bank, which is going to oversee some $35 billion of taxpayers' money and arguably put it in the pockets in some of Canada's and the world's richest investors with very little accountability. We have hardly had a chance to talk about that at all in the House.

However, here we are talking about this again. The one good thing about third reading, either way, is that this debate can finally end in the House. God willing, we will get on to something important.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 11:30 a.m.
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Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his eloquent speech.

Bill C-24 is simply smoke and mirrors. We do not know whether the Liberals are referring to pay equity or parity in cabinet. In fact, the bill is not really about either of those things. The Liberals are contradicting themselves.

Something else that does not make sense is the fact that, if all the Liberals wanted to do was give their ministers of state a pay raise so they earn the same as ministers, there was no need to introduce a bill. We do not understand why we are discussing this, when all of the experts agree that this bill is not about gender equality or pay equity.

I have been repeating ad nauseam that, if the Liberals really wanted to be feminists, they would talk about the recommendations made as part of the pay equity study that was shelved in 2004. The Liberals promised a bill on pay equity by 2016. It is now the end of 2017 and they have put it off until 2018, if it happens at all.

What does my colleague think about all this commotion for something that does not even require a bill?

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 11:30 a.m.
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Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

I also thank her for raising an issue that I think is really important and that I wanted to talk about in my speech. Experts have said that Bill C-24 does either very little or nothing at all for women in cabinet, and they have also said that it is dangerous to claim it does do something. There are real issues around pay equity, and we want to tackle those issues. We have been waiting since 2015 for this self-styled feminist government to introduce a bill that will achieve pay equity, but we have not seen one yet. That is not because the government is busy with important bills. After all, here we are debating Bill C-24, which is not an important bill. We still do not know exactly why this bill exists. Even though there are obvious reasons why we need a bill that directly addresses pay equity, we still do not have such a bill. I think that is a shame.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / noon
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Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for Winnipeg North for demonstrating for anybody listening at home who thought that I might have been unfairly partisan in my remarks the fundamental incoherence of the Liberal position when it comes to Bill C-24. We saw that very tail chasing that I was talking about earlier in my speech. I want to thank the member for putting that in evidence.

I want to say, with respect to some of his comments about the Prime Minister as the minister responsible for intergovernmental affairs particularly with respect to the health accord, that what was noticeable was first of all it is not an accord and it certainly was not a renewal of the old accord. It was a series of bilateral deals. To somehow pretend that prime ministerial leadership got it done when the premiers wrote him a letter asking to have a meeting about a health accord and he refused them and would not have that meeting, is totally egregious. Therefore, let the record show that this Prime Minister, who apparently, according to the member for Winnipeg North, is providing leadership on intergovernmental affairs, particularly health, would not have the meeting on a health accord requested by the premiers and instead sent his Minister of Health out to conclude a bunch of bilateral deals.

I also said in my remarks earlier that I hoped that the Liberals would back off of the argument that somehow only by having a minister for something is it possible to take issues seriously. We do take all sorts of issues seriously. We have a critic for housing. We have a critic for seniors. I think that is kind of a silly argument, and I have said as much. Given that the member for Winnipeg North seems quite committed to debasing us all by continuing on this line of argument, I have to put this question to him. Why is it that the Liberals do not have a minister for housing and for seniors if their position is that the only way to take something seriously is to have a minister for it and to give him or her a full ministerial salary and title? Why is it then that we do not have a separate minister for housing and for seniors? I do not get it.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 12:10 p.m.
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Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound.

Perhaps one day we will have just one word for each and every riding.

I am very pleased to rise today on Bill C-24. On behalf of all my colleagues, we will be opposing the bill because it is all wrong. I will say why, based on three elements.

First is the fact the Liberals want to cancel very important portfolios, especially ministries that are important for each and every region of Canada. Second, because they create new ministries for which there is no necessity. Third is the so-called debate about salary equality for women and men. That was the cosmetic debate, as was so well said by my colleague from Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d'Orléans—Charlevoix. She said a few minutes ago, this is a cosmetic bill, basically because this is the “selfie” bill.

I have three points to make on this issue.

First, the bill eliminates the positions of ministers responsible for regional economic development. The government is making a huge mistake in getting rid of these positions.

Let us think back to better times, all the way back to 1921, under the Right Hon. William Lyon MacKenzie King, when Quebec had a political lieutenant in cabinet, namely the Hon. Ernest Lapointe. Thereafter followed dozens of strong, influential men and women who were essential to our democratic process and who did a fine job of ensuring Quebec's prominent role within Canada and cabinet.

Obviously I am talking about Quebec because it is my home province, but the same could be said about the other regions of Canada as well. I would even quote people with whom I do not necessarily or naturally share the same philosophical outlook. For example, there is the Hon. Marc Lalonde who played a vital role within the cabinet of the Pierre Elliot Trudeau government and who ensured that Quebec was represented. From my perspective, it was not necessarily the right way, but Quebec was very actively represented under the Hon. Marc Lalonde.

The Liberal government has decided to get rid of economic development ministers for the regions. That is a mistake. First, I must mention that this bill was introduced after the fact. Members will recall the swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall and the pretty picture of these new ministers going to Rideau Hall, getting off the bus with the spouse, the kids, and everyone else. However, the reality is that, once again, it was about appearances and not substance, because they could have very well said right then what changes they were going to make. The changes were announced a little later.

Why is it important to keep regional ministers? With all due respect to the member from Mississauga, who is currently responsible for Canada's economic development, he is from Mississauga. That is not a shortcoming in and of itself. We realize that he knows every corner of the riding of Mississauga. I have no doubt about that. However, can he distinguish between Trois-Rivières and Sherbrooke? Does he know the difference between Ajax and Flin Flon? Can he tell us exactly what is the difference between Victoria and Vancouver, and what subtle differences there are between Baie-Comeau and Sept-Îles?

A person has to be from the area to understand those differences. That does not take anything away from who the member is as an individual, on the contrary. I am certain he does great work and that he knows his region like the back of his hand. However, that is the sticking point. He knows his region. Geographically speaking, our country is the second largest country in the world. Obviously, in our hearts it is the best in the world. However, the fact is that Alberta's reality is not the same as that of Atlantic Canada, and people in British Columbia have their own needs that are not the same as those of the people in Quebec. That does not make one region's needs any less important than another's.

That is why we need strong personalities in cabinet to advocate on behalf of the regions, people who know what is best for the region in question. In the past, Quebec was well served by people such as the Hon. Denis Lebel, the member for Lac-Saint-Jean, who provided strong leadership. The mayor of Quebec City, Régis Labeaume, can attest to that. About a year ago, he said, and I am quoting from memory, that when he had a problem, he called Denis and they talked and figured things out.

The Prime Minister of Canada and the Minister of Economic Development do not have time to call each and every one of the mayors who have concerns. That is the job of the minister responsible for the region. We have been very well served in the past, and I am convinced that we would have been very well served by one of the ministers from Quebec.

Why get rid of this arrangement? All the power will end up in the hands of a single individual, who will naturally be biased towards his or her own province and region, or perhaps even his or her home town.

Need I remind the House that the government refused Bombardier's request for a handout of $1.3 billion of taxpayer money for the development of its C Series aircraft? It did eventually agree to a $135-million loan for the C Series, but also, surprise surprise, a loan of $200 million for the development of Global 7000. The C Series is manufactured in Mirabel. Does the House know where the Global 7000 is manufactured? Right near Mississauga, in the minister responsible for Canadian economic development's own backyard. There is no way this could be a coincidence. That is just one point I wanted to make about this. This is why it is important to have ministers responsible for regions who promote economic development and report to cabinet on behalf of their region, because they know what they are talking about.

I will move on to my second point. This bill turns five ministers of state into senior ministers and creates positions for three other ministers. However, we do not know exactly what they will be ministers of. I will call them phantom ministers to be polite, but others might say they are ministers of nothing. That is the wrong message to send. No one knows who the three positions created by this bill are for, or why they are being created, or what their portfolios will look like, but this bill wants to create them anyway. Come on. It is absurd.

The other thing this bill does is turn ministers of state into full or senior ministers. For what it is worth, this is where we see the ugly side of this selfie government, this image-obsessed government, this government that reacts to an image it does not like by changing course and forging ahead.

When the current cabinet was sworn in at Rideau Hall, the Prime Minister was quite proud to say that, for the first time in Canada's history, in 150 years of life in our beautiful and great country, we had a gender-balanced cabinet. He was asked why and said, “because it's 2015”. Everyone thought that was just great, the crowd cheered.

However, a few days later, at closer inspection people began to realize that this gender-balanced cabinet was a bit lopsided. The fact that ministers of state do not have the same power, the same salary, or even the same responsibilities as the other ministers knocked this parity off balance a bit. Surprise, surprise, the five ministers of state were women. There was no parity there.

The ministers of state, whom we can politely refer to as junior ministers, were women only. The Liberals realized that that was not good for their image and decided to fix that. Instead of appointing women to important cabinet positions, the Liberals changed the ministerial titles. They sharpened their pencils and crossed out the word “state” to end up with just minister. Then there is the matter of equal pay for equal skills and equal responsibilities. Skills are subjective, but people should get equal pay for equal work.

Not to diminish anyone's work, but we know that ministers of state do not have the same responsibilities as full ministers. That has always been the case and remains so today. It is almost insulting to regular ministers, if we can call them that to distinguish from ministers of state. There is nothing wrong with being a minister of state. On the contrary, it is a privilege. Here, we are not ashamed because we are in opposition and not in government. Though we may be many, all 338 of us represent the public equally.

People see that everyone has their responsibilities and that a minister of state does not have the same responsibilities as a full minister. For the Liberals' image, it is not a good thing because, as it so happens, the five ministers of state are all women. Quick, let us rename the position before anyone notices. That is not the way to do it and it shows without a doubt that this government is literally obsessed with its image. As a result, the government makes ridiculous decisions.

Bill C-24 is a perfect example. It does away with regional ministers, it gets rid of the title of five ministers of state and replaces them with three phantom ministers. We are not too sure who this bill is for, what the whole point of it is or what it will look like in the end, but this government's image takes precedence above all else. That is why we are going to vote against this bill.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 12:25 p.m.
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Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a big task to fill the shoes of my colleague who just spoke. He obviously has a great grasp of the effects of this bill.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-24, an act to amend the Salaries Act. This bill has been touted by many members across the way as just a simple bill that must be passed as quickly as possible. They would like members of this House to believe that there is nothing controversial in this bill and that everyone should be on board. My hon. colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, even went so far as to say that this bill is indeed a simple and straightforward housekeeping bill. We all know it is more than that, and I respectfully disagree with that statement.

Bill C-24 is much more than a simple piece of housekeeping legislation. There are numerous changes in this bill that would have lasting impacts on a number of regions in Canada. Today, I would like to set the record straight. I would like to explain the concerns I have with this bill, as well as my concerns with the way the government has rushed this bill through the process by trying to make people believe that the bill simply contains housekeeping measures.

First, my major concern with this bill is that it would formally eliminate the positions of the six ministers for regional development agencies. As we know, the previous government maintained a system of six different development agencies, with a minister of state assigned to each. The agencies represented six unique regions of Canada and included one for Atlantic Canada, one for Quebec, one for the north, one for southern Ontario, one for northern Ontario, and one for western Canada. These agencies were tremendously successful in ensuring that regional economic interests were represented at the cabinet table.

The Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development website even states the following:

Canada’s Regional Development Agencies help to address key economic challenges by providing regionally-tailored programs, services, knowledge and expertise that:

Build on regional and local economic assets and strengths;

Support business growth, productivity and innovation;

Help small- and medium-sized businesses effectively compete in the global marketplace;

Provide adjustment assistance in response to economic downturns and crises; and

Support communities.

Despite all of the important work that I just listed, the Prime Minister has stated that he believes that regional development agencies represent a bad kind of politics, whatever he means by that. I know that the Prime Minister and I disagree quite a bit when it comes to politics; that is not really a state secret. However, there is a difference between politics and governance, and I, for one, believe that having a regional economic development minister at the cabinet table fighting for his or her regions of interest is a very effective way to govern.

Rather than having individual ministers represent specific regions through the regional development agencies, the Prime Minister has opted to concentrate this power within one minister, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, a minister from Mississauga—Malton, a minister for everything. How can the Prime Minister honestly expect that a minister from the GTA will be able to effectively fight for Atlantic Canada, western Canada, the north, Quebec, and the list goes on?

We are already seeing that the Prime Minister's new system is not working. For example, just last fall, the government awarded $150,000 in funding that was earmarked for northern Ontario to a company based in, get this, southern Ontario, Mississauga—conveniently, I might add, in the riding of the minister for everything, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and member for Mississauga—Malton. When did it become part of northern Ontario? The Bruce Peninsula is a three-hour drive north of there, and we cannot even get it designated as part of northern Ontario. I think maybe the compass might have been a little faulty in the Prime Minister's Office.

Furthermore, in Atlantic Canada it has been reported that there has been a threefold increase in processing times at the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, known as ACOA, since the Prime Minister put the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development in charge of the agency. Quite simply, the system is not working. It is pretty clear. I do not believe that the government has the right to give anyone lessons when it comes to the kind of work that our regional economic development agencies do for Canada. While these agencies work hard to deliver funding and ensure that businesses have what they need to succeed in their regions, the Liberal government calls business owners tax cheats, comes up with schemes to tax small businesses, and cannot seem to get any money out the door for important infrastructure projects.

For anyone in rural Canada, and I am one of those MPs who represents a large rural area, infrastructure is non-existent. It is just not there. Major transit projects—and I have nothing against those—get funding in the big cities, while rural Canada gets shafted again.

In fact, in rural Ontario in my riding of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, there is a certainty of feeling that we are being forgotten. Important projects are being left on the back burner while the government focuses solely on big city initiatives. FedDev Ontario, the federal economic development agency for southern Ontario, consistently worked to deliver important funding. By the way, the previous government filled that void and put FedDev in there, because there was nothing for southern Ontario before. With this government's inability to get infrastructure out the door, as I said, and now the elimination of FedDev, I am very concerned about what the passage of this bill would mean for rural infrastructure.

Another concern I have with this bill is in regard to the three ministerial positions that are created in the bill but not yet filled. Bill C-24 would create a total of eight new Liberal ministerial positions. In part, this is to accommodate the five minister of state roles that were filled after the 2015 election. However, there are three new positions created with no one to fill them. It really begs the question: Why create positions that are not needed, unless this government has a plan to fill these positions?

If it is the government's plan to fill these positions, I do have some suggestions. For example, let us put in an associate minister of finance. This would be very helpful. That way, the Minister of Finance could actually recuse himself from conversations about pension legislation that directly benefits his family company. We could also use a Minister of International Trade. My apologies, but with the bungling of NAFTA, the stalling TPP negotiations, and the embarrassing fiasco in China last week, I almost forgot that we already have one. Perhaps we could use a minister for rural affairs, instead of a minister of everything from Mississauga—Malton, though I'm not sure the government cares much about communities with a population less than 50,000. In fact, I am very positive about that. The government should be open and transparent and tell us what these mystery positions are all about.

Finally, I would like to conclude by stating that I am very concerned about the pace at which the government is moving on this legislation. I am told that, when the government operations committee studied this legislation, the only two witnesses were the government House leader and one professor. There is no partisanship there, is there? I have been involved and have chaired a number of committees over the years. I can say that having only two witnesses appear before any committee is simply unacceptable and it is certainly not the norm. In no way would it be possible for the committee to complete a full study of this bill or any bill.

Furthermore, I have learned that the topic of regional development agencies was not even discussed at the committee stage. What was the study about? This is unacceptable, and again shows that the government has no intentions of actually talking about this or consulting, whether it is through committee or the public. All they are about is trying to push this bill through as fast as possible.

With that, I am happy to take questions from my hon. colleagues. Before I do, I may not have another opportunity before we break for Christmas, so I would like to take a brief moment, Mr. Speaker, to wish you, your staff, and all my colleagues and members of this House a very merry Christmas and wish everyone all the best in the upcoming year.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 12:35 p.m.
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Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise again, this time at third reading, to speak in support of Bill C-24, an act to update and modernize the Salaries Act. I would like to focus my comments on the five positions Bill C-24 would add to the Salaries Act, positions that are currently minister of state appointments.

The bill would update the Salaries Act to reflect the structure of the current ministry by adding five titled positions. The five positions to be added under the Salaries Act are already occupied by ministers, ministers who are working on important priorities for this government and for Canadians: science, small business and tourism, status of women, la Francophonie, and sport and persons with disabilities. The amendments fully recognize that these are full ministers who lead on important matters and are directly accountable to the Prime Minister and Parliament for results.

The speakers who oppose the bill have said that the ministers of state are “junior ministers”, “little ministers”, or not “full ministers”; that they assist other ministers with their responsibilities and report to the ministers they assist; and that they cannot bring forward memoranda to cabinet without senior ministers sponsoring those items. They have remarked that the five ministers whose positions would be added under the Salaries Act were appointed as ministers of state and assigned, by order in council, to assist other ministers. They have asserted that this is evidence that the Prime Minister intended these ministers to be junior ministers, and they say that this should remain their status. They say that this bill would simply paper over a blunder when the ministry was originally put in place and would give junior ministers an undeserved raise in the bargain.

I understand the origins of this misperception. Conventionally, that has been the role of ministers of state, sometimes called secretaries of state. They have most often assisted other ministers with their portfolio responsibilities. They have not often been members of cabinet, and they have not been able to bring matters to cabinet for consideration on their own.

Ministers of state were not given, in previous governments, statutory authorities to exercise in their own right or statutory duties for which they were directly accountable. Instead, they were assigned to assist a senior minister in carrying out that minister's responsibilities. The senior minister retained the statutory authorities and accountability. The salaries of the ministers of state reflected their supporting roles.

These were policy choices former prime ministers were entitled to make in the exercise of their prerogative to design their ministries in a way they judged would accomplish the government's priorities and properly oversee the day-to-day governing of the country.

The former prime ministers relied significantly on ministers of state. Specifically, under Prime Minister Harper, there were 13 in office at the dissolution of that government. Some of those former ministers of state who are still in this House have said during the course of the debate on this bill that in that role, they worked on important matters. When invited to cabinet, they had an equal voice at the table. They said they considered it a privilege to serve in that capacity. I have no doubt that all of that is true. I am certain that past ministers of state were valued and contributing members of their ministries.

Successive prime ministers have favoured two-tier ministries, and current legislation allows for that kind of structure. Ministers have a significant workload between their portfolios, cabinet, and parliamentary and political duties and have responsibility for increasingly complex and quickly developing files. This workload burden can be shared by developing supporting teams for ministers that include ministers of state.

The appointment of ministers of state has served various purposes in the past. They can support other ministers on general or specific files; with particular tasks, such as taking a lead role developing a policy falling under another minister's authority; or in day-to-day functions, such as meeting with stakeholders. These assignments can both help alleviate a minister's workload and highlight areas of priority for the government's mandate.

Minister of state appointments have also been useful in rounding out the skill set for a portfolio. For instance, the minister might benefit from the assistance of a minister of state who has a background in a particular sector or profession. Minister of state appointments can be used to give a minister a supporting role in policy development or in stakeholder relations that fall under the mandate of another minister. For example, the former minister of employment and social development was cross-appointed as minister of state to assist the minister of Canadian heritage in relation to multiculturalism.

In a compact ministry, ministers of state can be paired with ministers who carry significant workloads. They can function as generalists, offering support on functions or files as requested. In a larger ministry, where ministers have a single portfolio and a defined set of priorities to pursue, there may be less need for the support of a minister of state. Still, having a small number of ministers of state focused on particular priorities might be helpful.

In short, the position of minister of state and the Ministries and Ministers of State Act offer useful options to a prime minister in designing his or her ministry. Bill C-24 does not eliminate the position or repeal the act. I note that I said “options”. That is because the appointment and roles of ministers of state in any particular government are decided by its prime minister.

In launching his ministry, this Prime Minister determined that he did not require a group of ministers to take traditional supporting roles as ministers of state. Rather, he preferred to have a group of ministers who led their own files and were accountable to him and Parliament for results.

The Prime Minister decided that his government's priorities would be delivered by a one-tier ministry. He created a ministry in which all members are full members of cabinet, have an equal capacity to exercise the powers and perform the functions assigned to them, and have leading roles to deliver on the important priorities of government.

However, in November 2015, five of these positions the Prime Minister wanted in his one-tier ministry were not positions listed in the Salaries Act. As has been explained, because the Salaries Act could not accommodate those priorities at the time the government took office, the five ministers were appointed pursuant to the Ministries and Ministers of State Act. That act offered a way for these ministers to begin their important work right away, to be paid under the Appropriations Act, and to be fully supported by existing departments in carrying out their responsibilities until legislation could be amended. In other words, they were provided with what was possible within the legal framework that existed in November 2015. However, it did not properly reflect the intended status, and the Prime Minister made a commitment to introduce legislation that would. Bill C-24 would fulfill that commitment.

As speakers before me have pointed out, these ministers have statutory responsibilities vested directly in them, and they are accountable to the Prime Minister and Parliament for results. The Minister of Science is responsible for the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

The Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities has policy and program responsibilities under the Canada Disabilities Savings Act. The minister is also responsible for the sport component of the Physical Activity and Sport Act.

The Minister of Small Business and Tourism is responsible for the Canada Small Business Financing Act, the Small Business Investment Grants Act, and the Canadian Tourism Commission Act, including Destinations Canada, the federal crown corporation that works to sustain a vibrant and profitable Canadian tourism industry. As the member of Parliament for the Niagara area, I know the importance of a successful tourist industry.

The Minister of Status of Women presides over the federal department known as Status of Women Canada.

Let me be clear. Those are just statutory responsibilities. They do not represent the sum total of the significant policy and program work in which these ministers are engaged. I list these items simply to make the point that these ministers are not in conventional junior minister roles and were never intended to be. The Prime Minister worked with the legislative framework he had in November 2015 and committed to updating it to reflect the current one-tier ministry.

The point has been made that these updating exercises are not new. The list of Salaries Act ministers has been amended several times in the last decade, most recently in 2012 and 2013. In each case, the changes aligned with the priorities of the times and with the then prime minister's preference with respect to the composition of his ministry and the organization of the government's administration. Perhaps in 2012 and 2013 changes to the Salary Act did not receive due attention from Parliament because they were included in long omnibus budget bills. This government prefers to be more transparent.

Some members have suggested that the scrutiny of Bill C-24 is not a good use of Parliament's time. With respect, I disagree. The ministerial system is essential and characteristic of our form of government. Its development should be a concern of Parliament. That is why this government brought forward these changes in a stand-alone bill, and I appreciate the lengthy engagement on the bill.

Let me anticipate a question my remarks might prompt. As I have said, the bill would not repeal the Ministries and Ministers of State Act. We think it would offer a useful degree of flexibility for the Prime Minister and future prime ministers in designing their ministries, just as the three untitled positions Bill C-24 would add to the Salaries Act would.

Why then are we removing regional development positions from the Salaries Act? Do they not offer flexibility to a future prime minister too? As one member put it, how can the government put forward a bill that eliminates the possibility of appointing a minister responsible for the development of a particular region that has its own unique issues?

To be clear, the bill does not do that. There will continue to be a need to appoint ministers to oversee each of the regional development agencies. The bill would retain two options to do that and would add a third.

First, as was the practice in the former ministry, a minister can be cross-appointed to a regional development position, assisted by a minister of state. Second, a minister of state can be appointed as the responsible minister. Finally, and this is the new option Bill C-24 would add, a minister could be appointed under one of the untitled positions to oversee one or more of the regional development agencies.

In this government, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development has been appointed to oversee all the regional development agencies. We think that makes good policy and operational sense. Others have spoken on that point.

The removal of the regional development positions would not affect the agencies themselves, which would continue to exist as separate entities located and working in the regions they serve. It also would not eliminate the requirement for ministerial oversight of them. What it would do is safeguard the installation of an oversized cabinet. The proposed increase in the number of Salaries Act positions would be offset by the removal of the regional development positions. The maximum number of ministers that could be appointed under the Salaries Act, including the Prime Minister, would increase by two positions, from 35 to 37.

In closing, I believe that our government has been clear in explaining that the legislative framework in place on November 4, 2015, prevented the appointment of full ministers to lead on five important priorities. Use of the Ministries and Ministers of State Act allowed ministers to be appointed to these positions and to get to work on the priorities of this government and the priorities of Canadians on day one.

The Prime Minister committed to introducing legislation that would formally equalize the status of all members of his ministry. This bill would fulfill that commitment. When it comes into force, the orders in council that appointed these ministers as ministers of state to assist other ministers would be repealed. They would be in law, as they are in practice, full ministers.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 1 p.m.
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Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, following the swearing-in of the Liberal cabinet after the 2015 election, the Prime Minister responded to a question regarding equal gender representation in cabinet with “because it's 2015”. It is now 2017 and the government's cabinet is no more gender equal today than it was then.

Professor Margot Young, a University of British Columbia law professor specializing in gender equality issues appeared before the government operations committee on Bill C-24, and said:

I have to say, to respond to a que1stion about women in the cabinet by saying simply “because it's 2015” loses a key leadership moment to articulate and shape opinion about what it means to actually have women in positions of equality, in positions of leadership and power.

I have said it before, and it is worth repeating now. This Liberal government is all style and no substance. The Liberals spend more time focusing on their appearance than they do on substantive matters that are important to Canadians, and this case is no exception. The Prime Minister would like Canadians to believe that his appointed Liberal cabinet is gender-balanced, but this is far from the truth. What the Prime Minister kept secret from Canadians is that several of the female ministers were not full ministers, but rather ministers of state.

Mr. Speaker, I neglected to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier.

Of course, once the opposition and others pointed out this reality to the Liberal government, the Prime Minister quickly tried to cover his tracks. He introduced Bill C-24, an act to amend the Salaries Act. The bill would make several changes to aspects of ministerial roles and designations. These include the creation of new positions, the removal of several important positions, the creation of legal backup for departmental support for these new ministry positions, and the transfer of authoritative powers.

In the bill, the Liberals are attempting to justify changing the title “ministers of state” to full ministers. They say that changing the names of the positions and increasing the income of each minister of state, with no added responsibilities for these ministers of state, somehow makes them equivalent to full ministers. This amounts to nothing more than a shell game, and in the process the Prime Minister is getting rid of regional economic development ministers and creating positions that will be determined later. What happened to openness and transparency?

I do not want to spend any more time discussing the Liberal's PR game of claiming to have a gender-balanced cabinet but in reality not having any such thing. I will leave it up to my hon. colleagues on the opposite side to try to square that circle.

Over the past two years, the government has shown it is unable to manage a national economy. Its top-down style of governance is no better exemplified than in the elimination of regional development ministers, leaving all regional development decisions in the hands of the innovation minister from Mississauga. I have served with the hon. member for Mississauga—Malton on a committee in previous Parliaments, and I know he is a very hard-working member and represents his constituents. However, he does not live, experience, and know the very real and unique needs that exist in our different regions, from Atlantic Canada to Quebec, to the Prairies, to British Columbia, and especially our northern areas, both in the territories and in our provinces.

To make things worse, when studying this piece of legislation in committee the Liberals refused to hear from a single witness about the plan to scrap regional economic development ministers. This, from a government that claims to make “evidence-based” decisions, a government that prides itself on consultation, a government that repeatedly says it wants to hear from Canadians. This is all style and no substance.

Regional economic development ministers played a very important role in our previous Conservative government's ability to weather the global economic crisis and come away with the strongest economy in the G7, all while balancing the budget and leaving a surplus. That is why, unlike the Liberals, Conservatives will fight for appropriate regional representation and accountability. The Liberals are ignoring the diversity of Canada's regions. So much for championing diversity. So much for championing consultation.

We need to include people from the regions in the decision-making process because it ultimately affects their full participation in our national economy. Indeed, the harmful effects of this decision are already noticeable. Take these examples, for instance. Last fall, $150,000 in northern Ontario economic development funds were given to a company based in the innovation minister's Mississauga riding. Apparently, this is the preferred kind of politics the Prime Minister had in mind. Members can correct me if I am wrong, but as a member whose riding is a short drive down the 401 from Mississauga, I would not consider our region of Ontario as being part of the north, by any measure.

Furthermore, just this spring, the Atlantic Liberal caucus subcommittee reported that it had heard of a threefold increase in processing times at ACOA since the appointment of the Toronto minister. The Liberal subcommittee noted, “centralized decision-making is viewed unfavourably as impeding the agility of programs. The Subcommittee was asked to advocate for regional decision-making in order to better address regional needs.” I sure hope that the Prime Minister and the innovation minister are taking the time to listen to their colleagues in their own Liberal caucus on this issue.

As previously mentioned, Bill C-24 seeks to ask parliamentarians to approve the appointment of three future mystery ministers. This is neither transparent nor accountable. We know that after two years of mismanagement of appointments left, right, and centre, the Liberal government cannot be trusted to handle any appointments, let alone secret appointments, to cabinet. I would ask my hon. colleagues opposite what exactly they are trying to hide.

Allow me to summarize. The Prime Minister set this legislation into motion after he was trying to look good for the cameras but had a reporter ask him about the so-called gender parity in his cabinet. He doubled down when he included in this legislation the removal of regional economic ministers, and then tripled down when he expected opposition parties to blindly support his creation of new cabinet positions that are to be determined in the future.

Conservatives do believe in equal pay for equal work. This bill does not deliver that. Ministers with more junior portfolios will not have their own deputy ministers, will not have the same departmental budgets, will not have the same responsibility or authority as ministers with more senior portfolios, and yet their salaries will increase. In fact, the salaries will increase by roughly $20,000 each for these ministers, with no added responsibilities or authority.

If the Prime Minister wants to put his words into action, I hear that the finance minister has been in a bit of trouble recently with the Ethics Commissioner. This could be an opportunity for him to promote one of his female members of the House to the position of finance minister. At the very least, the Prime Minister needs to listen to the advice of his Liberal backbenchers and immediately reinstate regional economic ministers. Enough of this top-down approach where Ottawa knows best. It is not working and it has created headaches across the country, especially in Atlantic Canada. In fact, all areas of Canada have been affected and have spoken out against this ill-conceived move to eliminate regional ministers from the economic development agencies.

There is a quote from La Presse in Quebec from November 2015, which states:

“It was always an important minister, like Denis Lebel, who was in charge,” said Mr. Forget [the current president] of the Quebec Chamber of Commerce. “It meant that business leaders had an attentive ear to discuss Quebec's economic issues. We'll have to see how things go in the coming days and weeks.”

We do not hear anything from the Liberal Quebec members speaking out against this change.

The Cape Breton Post has stated that “The change in tactics to support business growth was flagged as a potential concern for job-starved regions such as Cape Breton.”

From the CBC, Donald Savoie, a Canada research chair in public administration, has said that the lack of an ACOA minister from the region is a return to when former Liberal industry minister John Manley was responsible for the economic development agencies during the Jean Chrétien government. He say, “I would remind Atlantic Canadians that ACOA used to report to John Manley at the Department of Industry. Would I call [the current appointment] ACOA's heyday? No.”

That is not exactly a ringing endorsement of this plan.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 1:15 p.m.
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Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Kitchener—Conestoga for his excellent speech. I recognize his qualities as a person. He is a very caring individual who has a lot of respect for people. I think it is important to point out the kindness that he shows people every day.

Since the end of the session is just a few days away, I would like to wish a happy holiday season to all the staff who work with us here in the House and in our offices, all members of the House of Commons, my family, and the people of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier. We are going to spend some quality time with our family and friends and exchange gifts.

Speaking of gifts, since this government was elected two years ago, it has been trying to give gifts to those who donate to, support, and serve its party. Now, the Liberals have introduced Bill C-24. I am wondering whether this bill is just another way to do favours for certain people. I have some serious doubts about this bill, and the Liberals are the ones who have planted those seeds of doubt in my mind over the past two years.

Nowhere in the many pages of the mandate letter written by the Prime Minister's team and addressed to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons is there any mention of introducing this kind of bill. Here again, the Liberal government seems to be winging it. I do not know what the objective is. Usually, when I go through a bill, I find objectives. The official document I have here talks about Bill C-24, an act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act, but does not identify any objectives. What is the purpose of this bill? I certainly do not see a real answer to that question, and it is not even written in the bill.

They say this is about equality between men and women, but as usual with this government, it is all sizzle and no steak. Interestingly, the ministers with the three most important portfolios, the defence minister, the innovation minister, and the notorious finance minister, are all men. The Liberals say they want parity, but when it comes to giving mandates to female ministers, they seem to have little faith in women's abilities. That is why I have serious doubts. I do not understand what the government is trying to accomplish with its act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act.

Thanks to the government's improvisations over the past two years, it now has to look for loopholes, because it has deviated from its agenda. It decided to table a bill that would eliminate the positions of ministers responsible for regional development and entrust all decisions to a very busy minister. I will not talk about this minister's professionalism, but every human being, male or female, has their limits. He will have to take over the duties of the ministers responsible for Canada's six regional development agencies, which cover the entire country. There is one out east, one in Quebec, two in Ontario, one up north, and one out west. Now, however, the government will be making decisions about what is best for the people of the Atlantic region out of an office on Bay Street in Toronto.

From now on, people in Toronto will be deciding what is in the best interests of people living in the north.

The agencies were created because the regions face different realities. We are here to help the regions cope with their realities and find solutions that are appropriate in their circumstances. Some regions have very high unemployment. Fortunately, the Quebec City area has very low unemployment, but that is not the case across Canada.

When the minister, way up in his ivory tower, decides to apply a law or program, he obviously will not take into account the different features of each region. That shows a lack of respect towards our regions. It comes on top of the finance minister's lack of respect towards SMEs, which drive the economies of Canada's regions.

The Minister of Finance launched consultations in July. Since he does not have the same schedule as Canadian workers, he may not have realized that small businesses and company managers are worn out in July and take a few days off.

The Liberals say they want to consult, they put their reform out there, they make the announcement, and off they go. Then the opposition comes out swinging to defend the interests of Canadians and Canadian business owners. The government backtracks, but only halfway. Now it is going to let businesses pay a 9% tax, but not until 2019. That 9% was in the works before the Liberals took office, but they got rid of it because it was a Harper government initiative.

They have no real plan. They react, they change course, they make it up as they go along. Now, for the sake of gender equality, the government wants to give everyone a raise. It wants everyone to get a minister's salary, and it is taking ministers away from the regions.

Where are we going? How can anyone respect a government that does not respect the businesses in our regions?

I am not very comfortable with that. I am not an expert, but Norman Spector, a former ACOA president, has told many people in Ottawa that the Liberals never liked the regional development agencies and that eliminating them has been on the Liberal agenda for some time now.

The Liberals are removing competent people, centralizing power for themselves, and governing in the interest of their Liberal friends, not in the interest of all Canadians.

This government has been in power for two years, and I cannot name a single concrete measure it has introduced in the real interest of Canadian workers. This is just more window dressing. The Liberals are trying to impress the international community, but they are doing nothing meaningful.

Instead of working on this bill, why are we not investing our energy in putting negotiators in place to make sure the government concludes the NAFTA negotiations, solves the softwood lumber crisis, and respects our SMEs?

The new corporate tax reform comes into effect in 18 days. I do not know what the government is playing at, but if I can see that it is not respecting our SMEs, I am not sure how it can interpret its position.

Is the government respecting our SMEs? Is it respecting our regions? Is it respecting Canadians?

We are wasting our time on this bill. It is unacceptable. It does not take a rocket scientist to see that our Prime Minister is trying to shut us down, create a distraction, and pacify us.

The Prime Minister and the government need to take this a little more seriously.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 1:30 p.m.
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Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today to speak in support of Bill C-24. This is my second opportunity to speak to this bill, and I take great pride in it, as it is one I wholeheartedly endorse.

Assembling a cabinet is one of the first responsibilities of an incoming prime minister. The overall design of cabinet, the selection of ministers, and the alignment of their responsibilities determine how the government will marshal its individual and collective strengths under the prime minister's leadership to accomplish its priorities and oversee the day-to-day governing of the country. All these decisions are at the prerogative of the prime minister, as we know. The selection of members of cabinet is both vitality important and highly personal.

The Right Hon. Jean Chrétien writes in his memoir, “Building a cabinet is perhaps the most private and personal duty a prime minister has to perform.” The Right Hon. Lester B. Pearson writes in his, “In choosing my Cabinet, the decisions were mine and I did not ask anyone to share that responsibility.” The prime minister of Canada has considerable flexibility in exercising his or her prerogative for assembling the ministry and cabinet. Although a number of ministerial offices are created by statute and must be filled, the prime minister has room to design the ministry by cross-appointing individuals to more than one position, changing ministers' working titles to reflect their roles in advancing the priorities, and assigning responsibilities to the ministers through changes to the machinery of government.

The prime minister can also recommend the appointment of ministers of state to assist other ministers. These ministers might assist a minister with particularly heavy responsibilities or with a specific responsibility requiring special attention. Ministers of state can also receive statutory powers, duties, and functions. When they do, they are accountable to the prime minister and to Parliament directly for the manner in which they exercise them. The prime minister decides whether ministers of state are to be vested with statutory authorities in their own right and whether they sit in cabinet.

There can be parliamentary secretaries as well, as we know. These discretionary positions are not members of the ministry and do not normally play a role in cabinet. They are appointed under the Parliament of Canada Act to assist ministers with their parliamentary responsibilities, including interacting with caucus members and opposition counterparts, and assisting with the shepherding in of legislation.

Although the prime minister has considerable flexibility, there are rules underpinning the structure of the ministry too. For example, the Salaries Act, the legislation that authorizes the remuneration of ministers, lists 34 specific ministerial positions in addition to the prime minister. Many of those ministerial positions are statutory offices that must be filled. A few are discretionary.

While the governor general, on the advice of the prime minister, can appoint any number of ministers, only individuals appointed to positions listed in the Salaries Act can be paid a ministerial salary out of the consolidated revenue fund. The number of ministers of state whom a prime minister can appoint is unlimited, but it is subject to the requirement of Parliament's agreement to appropriate the necessary monies for that purpose under the annual appropriation acts.

The number of parliamentary secretaries that may be appointed cannot exceed the number of ministerial positions listed in the act. This mix of flexibility and rules reflects a fundamental constitutional principle. It is the crown's business to organize itself for the proper administration of the affairs of state, and it is Parliament's business to guide and supervise that administration through the granting or withdrawal of authorities and funding to the executive.

The size of the Canadian ministry has changed significantly over time, reflecting the development of Canada as a country and the growing complexity and range of issues under the federal government's purview. At the time of Confederation, the fledging government carried over seven federal organizations from its predecessor government, six departments and the Geological Survey of Canada. However, by the time of the first anniversary of Confederation, there were 15 organizations with 12 departments, the Geological Survey, the Dominion police service, and the office of the governor general's secretary.

Today, the prime minister must organize upward of 190 federal government entities into portfolios, each to be managed by ministers who are accountable for results. Over the course of the last 50 years, ministries have varied in size, from a low of 30 members in the Clark ministry, to at one point a high of the prime minister plus 39 other members in the Harper ministry.

The current ministry is composed of the Prime Minister and 30 ministers. It has not grown in number since its swearing-in on November 4, 2015. On that day, 26 individuals were sworn into ministerial positions listed in the Salaries Act. One of those 26 ministers, the Minister of International Development, and four other individuals were sworn in as ministers of state and assigned by orders in council to assist other ministers pursuant to the Ministries and Ministers of State Act.

The Ministries and Ministers of State Act was used in four cases because the positions are not listed in the Salaries Act and those ministers could not be paid or supported by the public service in carrying out their responsibilities. The Minister of International Development is paid under the Salaries Act. In this case, the Ministries and Ministers of State Act offered a way for the Minister of International Development to assume Canada's responsibilities for La Francophonie from the Minister of Foreign Affairs and to be supported by Global Affairs Canada in that role.

The legal title of ministers appointed under the Ministries and Ministers of State Act is “minister of state”. They are paid under the appropriation acts. The orders in council assigning these ministers to assist other ministers are necessary because of the legislative framework and the decision to have these ministers supported by existing departments in the exercise of their authorities and performance of their duties.

When the ministry was sworn in, a number of observers wondered why five of its members were appointed as ministers of state rather than simply as ministers. They concluded that the Prime Minister's gender-balanced cabinet was not really that at all.

In an interview with iPolitics, for example, the member for London—Fanshawe said she did not understand the technical reason for making the positions ministers of state rather than full ministers. At the time, the positions were all filled by women. The member has been a powerful champion of women's rights and women's voices in politics. She said she was disappointed and sad. However, she need not be, and she was right: the reason is a technical one.

The appointments as ministers of state and the orders in council under the Ministries and Ministers of State Act allow these ministers to be paid and supported by existing departments in carrying out their important mandates. They were provided with what was possible within the legal framework that existed on November 4, 2015.

The Prime Minister made a commitment to introduce legislation that reflects the composition of his one-tier ministry. Bill C-24 fulfills that commitment. It would revise the list of ministerial positions in the Salaries Act by adding five titled positions that are currently minister of state appointments: namely, minister of la Francophonie, minister of small business and tourism, minister of science, minister of status of women, and minister of sport and persons with disabilities.

It would add three untitled positions to provide a degree of flexibility for this and future prime ministers to adapt their ministries to respond to priorities of the day. It would offset the increase in ministerial positions that may be paid out of the consolidated revenue fund by removing six regional development ministerial positions from the statute. This would have no impact on the regional development agencies or the statutory requirement for ministerial oversight of them.

Bill C-24 would also create a framework within which any of these eight ministers can be supported by existing departments, meaning that no new departments need to be created as a consequence of the bill. Also, it would change the legal title of Minister of Infrastructure and Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs to Minister of Infrastructure and Communities to properly reflect the responsibilities of that position.

Why is the bill important? Why not just continue with the current arrangement under the current legal framework? We want to send a strong signal to Canadians that all ministers in this cabinet are equal. In Canada, we like to treat people equally. The ministry is the reflection of that value. We want to remove distracting distinctions, which even after two years and even after we debate the bill, have some members insisting that they are junior ministers and that they should stay as junior ministers.

The Prime Minister's team is a group of equals. We need to make this legislative framework a reality. In this ministry, there are no junior ministers or senior ministers. There are no first-tier and no second-tier ministers. There are just ministers, working together to deliver results for Canadians.

We would be shortsighted if we did not look to the future now. We need to modernize the legislation to allow for sufficiently varied and flexible ministerial structures, which can adapt quickly to the contemporary challenges of complex issues, changing priorities, and big government.

I urge my fellow hon. members to join me in supporting Bill C-24.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 1:45 p.m.
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Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Kingston and the Islands for his historical overview and the context in which he has put his comments this morning to help us better understand the importance and need for Bill C-24.

The question I would like to put to the member is with respect to the point he made about what this is really all about, and that is equal voices in cabinet. He mentioned the five ministries: la Francophonie, sport and disability, status of women, small business and tourism, and science.

Could the member comment on why it is so important that ministers who hold these portfolios have an equal voice at the cabinet table?